Authors: Glenn Stormy
“Why, so you can duct tape me, too?” Aldrin was done being afraid. Mostly. His anger overrode his fear, and Aldrin wanted to sock Buck right in his nose. “At least tell me what the hell is going on, Buck.”
Buck squatted in front of Aldrin, pressing the palms of his hands against his knees. God lord, why hadn’t Aldrin noticed just how smoky the man’s breath smelled before? The guy smelled as if he’d licked a hundred ashtrays.
“Well, ya see, that man over there has entered the codes into his laptop in order to steal millions from Jonah. The problem is, Jonah’s still alive and can come after us if he becomes wise to our plan. But Mr. Business Manager over there only offered me twenty thousand dollars to get rid of Jonah. The sneaky bastard thought I was too plumb dumb to figure out what Jonah Cade was truly worth.” Buck shrugged. “Can’t have the man playing me for a fool. As soon as the money is transferred, both you and him are dead.”
“But I thought you said you needed me for bait?” Aldrin was desperate. He had to think of a way to outsmart Buck. He had to stall for time. All Aldrin could do was pray that either Jonah or the sheriff caught on to Buck’s involvement and found them in time.
“Put your fucking hands on the arm of the chair,” Buck said, his threat low and menacing. “Or should I just cut them off?”
Aldrin slapped his arms onto the chair. He glared at Buck as the man wound the duct tape around his wrists, and then bent to bind his ankles to the legs of the chair. “You’re a rotten excuse for a man! I trusted you as a friend, Buck.”
The man snorted. “Since when have we ever been friends, Aldrin? I saw in your eyes that I wasn’t good enough to be considered one.”
Aldrin couldn’t ever remember looking at Buck that way. He’d been overly nice, and had smiled at the man’s lame jokes too many times to count. No, Aldrin wouldn’t consider Buck a friend, but he’d never been a snob to the guy.
“You won’t get away with this.”
Buck chuckled. “Famous last words of every person ever held hostage. Now, if you don’t shut your fucking pie hole, I’ll tape your mouth.”
Aldrin curled his lips in, but in his head, he was cussing up a storm, threatening Buck with everything he could think of.
“Very good.” Buck patted him on the head and Aldrin wanted to bite the man’s hand off.
As he watched Buck check the laptop, Aldrin tried to come up with a plan of escape. Too bad nothing came to mind. He tried to make eye contact with the man across the table from him, but the business manager was too busy giving Buck the evil eye. The guy would be of no help to him.
Aldrin had to figure this out on his own.
* * * *
Jonah knew something was off. He just couldn’t quite put his finger on it, and considering he was standing in the middle of a police crime scene, that said a lot. Everything in him was screaming that he had missed something.
Jonah pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. Between the mess his accountant had dropped in his lap and his worry about Aldrin, Jonah could feel a monster-size headache coming on.
“Okay, one more time, Yuval. How many wire transfers have I authorized and for how much?”
“Over the last six months, there have been five wire transfers, all for the amount of one million dollars. This last transfer was for ten million dollars. But, Mr. Cade, you authorized all of them.”
“How did I authorize them?”
“Mr. Douglas faxed me the wire transfer orders, sir.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” Jonah seethed.
“Yes, sir, but he has power of attorney in these matters, sir,” Yuval said. “You gave it to him, remember?”
No, he didn’t remember, and he was pretty sure giving his business manager power of attorney over the money his family left him wasn’t something he would forget. “Yuval, I want you to gather together everything pertaining to these wire transfers my business manager had you make. I also want all of the information on that account, when it was set up, by who, and who has access to it.”
“Yes, sir.” There was a slight tremble in that quiet voice.
“Yuval, you’re not in trouble. In fact, I’m grateful to you. I never would have known about this if you hadn’t called me.”
Jonah knew that the police were going to have to be called in, maybe even the feds. Not only was this a serious amount of money, but the offshore account was in the Cayman Islands, a place known for money laundering and hiding of assets from federal agencies. There was no way in hell Jonah was going to allow anyone to accuse him of being dishonest with his money.
“Call me when you get everything together. We’re going to need to meet so I can get those papers from you.”
“I could overnight them to you,” Yuval offered.
“No, I’m going to need you to explain some of this shit to me. I don’t do accounting.” Which is why he had an accountant and a business manager in the first place. Plus, he didn’t like dealing with people, so…yeah. “I also need that account frozen so no one can take any money out of it.”
“I didn’t set up that account, Yuval.”
“But, sir, I have your signed—”
“I didn’t sign anything.”
“Am I going to jail?”
Jonah smiled. “No, Yuval, not unless you tried to embezzle money from me.”
“No, sir,” Yuval answered quickly. “I would never… Sir, my mama would nail my hide to a wall if I tried to take your money, and frankly, sir, I’m more scared of her than I am of you.”
“Fair enough, Yuval.” Jonah chuckled at the image Yuval’s words invoked. “Just make sure no one messes with that account until we get this all sorted out.”
Jonah glanced up when he heard raised voices. Sheriff Riley seemed to be having an animated conversation with one of his deputies. Jonah’s gut clenched when both men looked in his direction before the deputy walked away, climbed into his patrol vehicle, and drove off.
Jonah knew he needed to know what they were talking about. “Yuval, I need to go. Call me if you learn anything new or have any problems putting a freeze on that account. Once you get everything together, we’ll set up a meeting to go over it.”
Jonah could hear the worry in his accountant’s voice. “You’re not in trouble, Yuval.”
There was a small sigh. “Yes, sir.”
Jonah hung up and then stuck his arm through the open window of his truck to set the satellite phone onto the dashboard. His gut clenched as he walked over to join the sheriff. He didn’t know what was going on, but from the sour look on the sheriff’s face, he was pretty damn sure he wasn’t going to like it.
Jonah crossed his arms and gave the man a hard look. “Sheriff.”
“We have a problem, Jonah.”
Jonah raised an eyebrow in query.
Sheriff Riley glanced away for a moment, his lips pressing together. “Aldrin never made it to the diner.”
“What?” Jonah shouted as pure panic gripped him. “Where in the hell is he?”
The sheriff winced. “We don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Jonah roared as outrage overrode his panic.
“When the deputy I sent to watch over Aldrin arrived at the diner, Trudy said Buck and Aldrin never showed up there.”
Jonah shoved a trembling hand through his hair as he started to pace. “Was there any sign of them? Any sign at all?”
“I sent Yancy back to the station to put out an APB on Buck’s truck. We’ll find them.”
“What good is that going to do when Aldrin is missing now?” Jonah felt his stomach begin to roll when every worst case scenario possible began to float through his mind. “Who knows what could be happening to him?”
Aldrin cracked opened an eye and cautiously glanced around. The light shining through the window told him morning had arrived, which meant he had been tied to that damn chair since the previous evening.
He had to pee.
Glancing in the other direction, Aldrin searched for Buck. He hated the man, but at the moment, he needed him. “Buck.” Aldrin cleared his throat, the dry lump lodged there making it almost impossible to talk. “Buck, I need to pee.”
“Hold it,” grumbled the voice behind him.
“I’ve been holding it since last night.” Since he had been tied down to that damn chair, he hadn’t been allowed to pee or given anything to eat or drink. That lack of basic human decency did not bode well for his future ability to breathe. “I’m serious, Buck. If I don’t get to go to the bathroom, I’m going to pee all over this chair.”
Something creaked behind Aldrin and he vaguely remembered a ratty old lounge chair that had been sitting in the corner of the room. When Buck walked around in front of him, the man had a rather large looking gun in his hand.
Aldrin gulped. Maybe he could hold it.
Buck flicked out a knife and reached down to slice it through the tape restraining him to the chair. He took a step back and then waved the gun at Aldrin. “Bathroom is down the hallway. Any funny business and taking a piss will be the least of your worries.”
Aldrin nodded rapidly, his eyes fixed on the gun in Buck’s hand. It seemed to get bigger the longer he stared at it. Logically, Aldrin knew that wasn’t true, but there was nothing logical about his fear.
“Move.” Buck waved the gun at him again.
Aldrin got up and walked toward the hallway, making a wide berth around Buck. When he reached the bathroom, stepped inside, and started to shut the door, Buck slapped his hand against the hard wood.
“Not gonna happen.”
“I’m not going to pee with you watching,” Aldrin said indignantly.
“You will if you want to pee.”
“Pervert,” Aldrin muttered under his breath as he turned away and headed for the toilet. At least the damn thing was against the back wall and he could face away from Buck. Aldrin sighed as his bladder emptied. Sometimes it just felt really good to pee, especially when he had been holding it for hours.
After tucking himself back into his pants and zipping up, Aldrin flushed the toilet and then turned. He shot Buck an evil glare as he walked over to the sink to wash his hands. As he leaned forward to turn on the water faucet, a flash of movement through the window over the sink caught his attention.
Aldrin froze for a moment, wondering if he had imagined something moving beyond the window. As he watched, the shadows in the bushes took shape. Aldrin’s jaw dropped as he realized he was looking at one of the Cade Creek deputies.
Aldrin glanced at Buck out of the corner of his eyes. The man was standing right outside of the bathroom, leaning on the doorframe. His attention seemed to be on something back down the hallway.
Aldrin glanced out the window again, trying to peer into the dawning light. The deputy he had spotted was gone, and he didn’t see any other movements, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t someone out there. Aldrin just had to figure a way to distract Buck so whoever was trying to rescue him could get on with it.
God, he hoped he was being rescued. Spending more time with Buck didn’t seem to be in his best interest. A thought came to mind. It was diabolical and underhanded and Aldrin felt like crap for even thinking it up. But there was a chance it might work. There was a chance Aldrin would make it out alive if he seemed convincing enough.
Turning to face Buck, Aldrin had to force himself not to sneer. If he pulled this off, he deserved an Oscar. “You know, the best way to lure Jonah here is to use me.”
Buck scrunched his face, as if Aldrin was an irritating gnat flying around his head. “Since you don’t seem smart enough to keep up with what’s going on, I’ll clue you in. I’m already using you as bait.”
It took every ounce of control Aldrin possessed not to bitch slap Buck. Instead, he smiled as he moved until he was standing directly in front of the guy. “But can you get his entire fortune?”
That caught Buck’s interest. He gazed wearily at Aldrin. “Keep talking.”
“I was using Jonah Cade,” Aldrin confessed, giving Buck a lecherous grin. “I knew he was loaded, and what guy doesn’t want to sip fruity drinks on a beach with millions to blow?”
Every single word out of Aldrin’s mouth tasted like poison. All he had to do was keep Buck distracted long enough for the cops to bust in and take the bastard down. Buck smiled, rubbing the end of the gun under his chin as if using the metal as a scratcher.
“Using him, huh? How do I know you’re telling me the truth? And if what you’re sayin’ is true, then how do I fit into your plan?”
“Didn’t you know?” Aldrin ran the tip of his index finger down Buck’s shirt. “I’ve been attracted to you for a while. I would have said something, but I didn’t think I was your type.”
Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit.
If Aldrin wasn’t rescued soon, he just might. The thought of touching Buck made his skin crawl. If the guy tried to kiss him, Aldrin just might upchuck. He glanced at Buck’s lips and shivered in revulsion, but Buck had to have taken that as a good sign, because his eyes grew dark as his tongue snaked out to trace his bottom lip.
“Never knew that.” Buck grabbed one of Aldrin’s belt loops and yanked him until their bodies were aligned. Bile rose to the back of Aldrin’s throat. He felt as if a snake had a hold of him and Aldrin was desperate to get free.